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Joining a varsity Football team as an exchange student

Joel-balkowHey everybody!

My name is Joel Balkow and I am one of many travelling exchange students scattered around the world.  Being an exchange student is truly something else and it involves new experiences every day!  I’d like to share one of those experiences that for me was  exceptionally remarkable! I joined a Varsity football team and became a champion!

Coming from Europe, Sweden to be more precise, means that you’re most likely not familiar with the american sports like football and baseball. I was no exception and joining a completely new sport like football during my first steps as an exchange student was therefore  something unique. Not to mention scary and exciting!

As I signed up for the team, my knownledge of football was not very broad and the only edge I knew I had was that I was fast and a good ”catcher”. Frankly, I asked the coach if I could become a receiver. He said yes and within a few days I was ready for my first practice with the Bronco High School team.

I was received like a family member by the big army containing big, small, heavy, light, tall, short and musculous players. From only knowing a handfull of people, I all of sudden became familiar with 90 new guys that all treated me like a brother.


Just like it didn’t take long for me to make friends, it quickly hit me how professional everything was. Every week day was filled with four hours  of practice which included workouts, conditioning, drills and film. There were certain people whom only worked for us by every day providing us with medical care and water. 10 coaches, including other staff members,  also pushed the envelope of how a professional high school team can be like.

Although every day almost looked the same, Wednesday were always different. Those days were called ” wacky wednesdays” which mean that every wednesday practice we could dress up in whatever we wanted. Imagine a hallowen party with football players and you get the picture.

However, Fridays were the highlight of the week since it was that day that was ”gameday”. During fridays we either had a home game or an away game. A home game meant that our whole stadium got filled with 5000+ spectators that all supported our game and followed our pursuit for victory.

Breathtaking? Yes, indeed!

The team entering the football field to win another home game.

Before the game starts the entire team get together and start singing on We Are Ready (Archie).

As months passed, I became more and more like a football player. I gained a lot of weight by working out and learned all my routes as a receiver. I got more and more into the games and our winning streak as a team kept getting higher and higher.

But then, something terrible happened…

Our team had to face great adversity as our first five games had to be forfeited due invalidable participant in a game. Everything we had been fighting for was, in an instant, all gone and all hope of now making it to the playoffs vanished..

However, great team as we was, brother as we were and thanks to the coaches we had, we joined together and became even stronger. Anger and lust for revenge pushed us as we decided not to let things in the past determine our future goal of becoming champions….

The following games we crushed our enemies and everything that stood in our path.
People started talking about how ”hollywood like” it would be if we now got our revenge and won it all. The vision of winning kept getting more believable as we made it to the playoffs undefeated.

In the news paper after winning the semi-final.

That was, however, only the tip of the icebergh

The 9th december 2011, we entered our home stadium filled with 7000+ spectators, advertisements, and Fox News cameras broadcasting nationwide. Finalist, or underdogs as we were, we faced an even greater enemy that we could possibly dream of. The enemy was undoubtbly  our biggest rival. As a matter of fact, we made it to the finals consecitively the two last years, both loosing, including against this team.

I can’t put into words how amazing it was to put on my jersey that Friday. I can’t describe enough how, for a lack of a better word, awesome it was to enter the arena with the whole nation and the whole town watching you. I mean, here’s a guy that only a few month ago did not even barely know what football was and now he’s part of a team playing one of the biggest high school games of all time. On National tv!!!

I could write a whole book of the final game itself. Nervwracking, intense and close are the first three words that hit my mind. I am going to let the video, showing the last few minutes, to do the work this time:

The video does only work for US visitors.

I've recored the video above for non-us visitors.

Thanks to that incredible touchdown we won. This was the first time this school had won a CIF football championship. That being said, we did not only win and get our revenge, we also wrote history!

Football has now been over for me in more than a month and I can’t tell you how much I already miss it. I miss the drills, the warmups, the social part, the team feeling, the great recognition as a football player, the team dinners, the gamedays, the players, the coaches, the atmosphere both on and off the arena etc.

If you would have asked me a  year ago if I ever thought that one of my greatest and best experiences would lie in joining a previous unfamliar sport I would have though you’d been joking.

So if you ever get the chance, as an exchange student, to join a professional varsity football team, DO IT! It’s a tough sport, no doubt, but trust me, you won’t regret it.



Right now I can’t wait for my CIF ring to arrive.  That’s right people, just like the superbowl winners, we get a big, badass ring too :D

Also, it’s going to be exciting to follow my fellow teammates as they make their way through college and professional football!Joining a varsity Football team as an exchange student

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